Friday, May 18, 2012

TOP STORY >> Commander of 314th gets a key role at Maxwell AFB

Leader executive editor

Col. Mark Czelusta, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, is going to the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., where he will be the commandant of the Squadron Officer College and Squadron Officers School.

He will succeed Col. Terrance (Marco) McCaffrey as commandant.

Col. Edward Scott Brewer, director of staff at Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base. Ill., will take over the 314th Airlift Wing in a change-of-command ceremony next month.

Brewer trained here as a C-130 pilot and has led humanitarian and combat operations in Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, South America and the Philippines. He also helped evacuate people from Hurricanes Gustave and Ike in the U.S. He has flown in five different versions of the C-130.

Czelusta is moving on to a sprawling air base with 45,000 people. The base is also home to Air Command and Staff College, Air War College, International Officer School and the 42nd Air Base Wing.

The campus is called “the intellectual and leadership center of the Air Force” and is part of Air Education and Training Command at San Antonio.

The 314th Airlift Wing, which trains all C-130 crews in the U.S. military and more than 40 allied nations, is also part of AETC.

“It’s never easy to leave a base that has meant so much to you,” Czelusta said in an interview on Tuesday. But he was pleased with his new assignment.

“It’s a chance for me to continue on the command level,” he said.

The schools in Montgomery, Ala., train 16,000 company-grade officers a year, “preparing them to fly, fight in air, space, and cyberspace and motivating these airmen to value their role in the profession of arms,” according to the school’s website.

“Students are treated to a graduate-level executive leadership seminar that helps them to identify their leadership strengths and weaknesses, provides them tools for improvement and empowers them with opportunities to apply what they have learned,” according to the website.

Czelusta took over the 314th AW in August 2010. He had two previous tours at LRAFB.

“I’m a three-time returnee,” he said.

His predecessor here, Col. Charles K. Hyde, has been promoted to brigadier general and is commander at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Czelusta’s new assignment will mean overseeing a broad curriculum for young Air Force officers, while with the 314th he focused on training C-130 crews that fly around the globe after they complete their training here.

“Every C-130 crew has flown with the 314th,” Czelusta said. “They have carried out airdrop missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. They’re in South and Central America. They were put in the air by the 314th. We’re very proud of that. We’re the only wing in the Air Force that can say that.”

He said a sense of partnership has made the 314th successful, working along with the 19th Airlift Wing, the 189th Airlift Wing and the Reserves at the base.

“It’s been humbling, rewarding and energizing to lead them,” he said of the 314th AW.

“I can’t figure out what I did to deserve to lead them,” said the self-effacing Czelusta, whose wing last year brought home the Gen. Joe W. Kelly Trophy for best C-130 team at the Air Mobility Command rodeo at McChord Airfield on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. It brought home five other trophies.

He waves off that accomplishment by saying the credit belongs to all airmen at the base, including the host 19th Airlift Wing, the Guard and Reserves and the community.

“The success of the 314th is not measured just by the success at the rodeo but its daily missions and maintenance performance,” he continued.

The wing carries out 20-24 missions daily.

“We measure our success by the quality of our graduates,” the colonel said.

The wing includes 1,200 people — 900 in uniform and 300 civilians, who continually train 500 C-130 crew members.

The wing graduates 1,800 airmen a year — about half of them pilots.

The mission and its people make the 314th special, he said, along with the community support the base enjoys.

Besides training C-130 crews, the 314th AW has participated in combat airlift operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

The 314th recently retired its oldest C-130E, which was made in 1962. The wing has 27 planes — nine new C-130Js and 18 older C-130H2, which were made in the late 1970s until 1992. The wing will soon get another C-130J and will eventually transition to all Js, as will the host 19th Airlift Wing. The Guard and Reserve units will fly with older C-130s.

From 2005-2007, Czelusta was the 463rd Operations Sup-port Squadron commander at LRAFB.

He was also the commander of the 386th Expeditionary Operations Group in 2006. He led a team of approximately 190 airmen providing combat airlift, airborne electronic attack and operations support capabilities for operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

He received the Bronze Star for his performance commanding the only hub-and-spoke airlift squadron in Iraq.

The squadron delivered more than 19,000 passengers and 10,800 tons of cargo to numerous forward-operating bases. The deliveries eliminated more than 1,675 convoy vehicles and saved countless lives from the dangerous roads in Iraq.